also be used in place of breast milk - but it must be one that tries to duplicate the
essential elements of mothers' milk.
All this sounds like elementary common sense. But many
mothers can't cope without some form of help. And around ten percent of mothers, even in
developed countries, are at "high risk".
Researchers at the Otago University School of Medicine
in New Zealand, for instance, have completed a ten-year study of women having babies at
the nearby Dunedin maternity hospital. Before a baby is born, hospital staff ask the
mothers some simple questions, such as age, marital status, employment and home addresses
over the previous year. And the figures have been consistent year by year: 78 percent of
mothers can cope adequately. But 22 percent need some form of help. And nine percent of
all babies are considered high risk.5 They could be seriously abused or
maltreated unless their mothers are helped.
It's not hard to identify the risk factors: young,
single mothers, moving around a lot. No job. Parents who've already split up. A history of
foster homes. Maybe a background of drugs. Mother suffered parental violence as a child.
Unfortunately, a similar pattern exists in many
countries. The United States has 22 million children under six.6
Five million of those are living in poverty and about half that number again are just
above the poverty line.7 And guess who'll be the
educational failures of the next century unless that poverty trap is broken?
That's why we've listed parent education and early
childhood health programs as vital first priorities in any sensible education system.
Many research projects show the vital connection
between nutrition and other brain-developing activities in the first five years of life.
Ideally most early brain development happens in
sequence. A child learns to see before it learns to talk. It learns to crawl and creep
before it walks. Walks before it runs. Learns to identify simple objects before it learns
to reason. If an infant misses out on one of those steps - like walking without ever
crawling or creeping - learning problems can result. To use computer terms, that's because
the early activities lay down the "hard-wiring" or "hardware" of the
brain - in a set sequence. When the hardware is in first-class condition, it can be used to
"run" any software program: like learning a foreign language or a new subject.
But if any of the "hard-wiring" has been skipped, the brain could have
difficulty running some programs.
Contents Page Preface